Seventh-ranked Michigan turned its top-10 showdown this week into a statement game. The Wolverines will try to hammer home that point when they face another Top 25 opponent on Saturday when they face the No. 23 Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis.
Fueled by a suffocating defense, the Wolverines routed No. 9 Wisconsin 77-54 on Tuesday to remain the Big Ten’s only undefeated team. Michigan, which led the Badgers by as much as 40 points, now faces Minnesota (10-4, 3-4 Big Ten) for the second time in three games.
In the first meeting on Jan. 6, the Wolverines (11-0 overall, 6-0) cruised to an 82-57 victory. They have won all but one of their outings this season by double digits.
According to ESPN, Michigan’s latest victory made it the first team in Division I history to defeat three consecutive ranked teams by 19 or more points. The Wolverines have pasted then-No. 19 Northwestern, then-No. 16 Minnesota and Wisconsin during the dominating stretch.
“I hope our guys don’t get too high on that. Still early in the season!” coach Juwan Howard said. “But I give all the credit to the fellas. I mean players and staff. And our managers. Everyone is a major contributor to the success that we’re having. But we know that it’s still early. We’re not here try to break any records. Our goal is to be the last team standing on Monday night in April.”
Hunter Dickinson stood tallest against the Gophers in the first meeting and not just because he’s the Wolverines’ starting center. Dickinson piled up 28 points and eight rebounds that night as Michigan shot 56.9 percent from the field.
Minnesota only had one double-digit scorer, Marcus Carr, who finished with 14 points but made just 5 of 16 field-goal attempts.
Howard is making sure his team doesn’t become complacent or overconfident.
“You’re right: I’m never satisfied. A little crazy, weird,” he said. “I’m very happy with the effort that the guys brought (against Wisconsin). I’m also happy to see that they’re playing hard and I give them a lot of credit — it’s all about the players. … But on Thursday, when we come back into the gym, we have to prepare and see how we can improve. And they know I will have some things on a list of areas of where we need to get better.”
Minnesota is navigating an extremely difficult obstacle course. The Golden Gophers’ game on Saturday is the seventh straight against a ranked team.
“This is the toughest stretch in the history of Gophers basketball,” coach Richard Pitino said during a radio interview. “Nobody has played this many ranked opponents in a row.”
Pitino gave his players three consecutive days off after the team’s 86-71 road loss to No. 5 Iowa on Sunday. The Golden Gophers have lost three of their last four games, all three by double figures.
“They definitely needed it,” he said. “Hopefully, they come back refreshed and ready to go.
“We’re just not being disruptive enough and I think that starts on the ball. We look like we’re up 10 and we’re playing prevent defense in football. We can’t hope you miss a shot, we can’t just try not to foul. We’ve got to be more disruptive.”
–Field Level Media